Report: Issachar family reprimanded after Netanyahu left out of ‘thank you’ post

Backpacker jailed in Russia thanks activists, Tel Aviv mayor, celebrities and others for campaigning for her, but neglects to mention PM; PMO official denies rebuke

Naama Issachar is greeted by Sara Netanyahu, while her mother Yaffa and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu look on, Moscow Airport, January 30, 2020. (Koby Gideon/GPO)
Naama Issachar is greeted by Sara Netanyahu, while her mother Yaffa and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu look on, Moscow Airport, January 30, 2020. (Koby Gideon/GPO)

An aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the mother of Naama Issachar to chastise her after the Israeli-American backpacker, who was jailed in Russia for 10 months on drug charges, neglected to mention the premier in a post thanking those who campaigned for her release, according to a report on Channel 12  Sunday.

Hours earlier, Issachar penned a post on a Facebook page that was created to raise awareness of her plight.

“For the past several days I’ve been thinking about how to thank you all. How to address everyone to say how grateful I am for all this love. How thankful I am for all the effort — all the groups that came together, the prayers, the worry, the letters, and a million other things that I know I’m not aware of.”

“You gave me a lot of calm within the chaos, because in my heart I knew that I wasn’t fighting alone. I am so overwhelmed and excited to be back in Israel, the amount of hugs and support I’ve received truly warms my heart.”

“All of this wouldn’t have happened without you, and I am extremely lucky to have a circle of people that diligently looked after me when I wasn’t able to — you are the ones that brought me home. I love you, thank you.”

“It’s important to thank my family, who raised the campaign and were there for me every second of the way. I want to acknowledge and give thanks to everyone that took part in the impossible challenges to bring me home.

“To my close circle of friends, and everyone that donated their time, resources, and finances without any expectations, and to those who contributed without knowing me personally. Thank you.”

Issachar then went on to list over 80 individuals and organizations including public personalities, celebrities, newspapers and the mayor of Tel Aviv. Not included was Netanyahu, who had personally raised Issachar’s plight in several conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A poster calling for Naama Issachar’s release on the side of a truck in Raanana, Israel. (Sam Sokol)

According to Channel 12, shortly after the post was published, Naama’s mother Yaffa received a call from PMO director Asher Hayoun, who expressed chagrin at the lack of mention of Netanyahu. Yaffa responded by explaining that there was no offense intended toward the premier and that it was a post thanking activists only.

Responding to the report, the PMO said that Hayoun had not reprimanded Issachar at all and that he continues to maintain contact with the Issachar family as he had in the months leading up to Naama’s release.

Issachar, 27, was sentenced by Russia to 7.5 years in prison after nearly 10 grams of marijuana were found in her luggage during a layover in a Moscow airport in April. She denied smuggling drugs, noting she had not sought to enter Russia during the layover on her way to Israel from India, and had no access to her luggage during her brief stay in the Russian airport.

Netanyahu had flown to Moscow late last month from the United States — both to discuss with Putin the new US proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian deal, and to welcome Issachar upon her release, which came less than five weeks before national elections in Israel.

Putin pardoned Issachar, with the Kremlin saying a presidential decree pardoning her on “humanitarian principles” was effective immediately.

An Israeli official said at the time that Issachar’s release was the result of a Russian goodwill gesture toward the United States, asserting that Israel did not give Moscow anything in return.

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